Thought you could only check out at the library? Try checking in.

Whether you know it or not, patrons may already be “checking in” at your library!  Foursquare, the latest social networking application is slowly catching on around the country and the library is not immune.  Most basically, Foursquare, along with other similar applications (loopt.com, gowalla.com,and brightkite.com) gives the user a way to share his or her location with his or her friends on Foursquare as well as Twitter and Facebook if desired.  However, a patron advertising use of the library (by checking in) to his or her friends is just one of the many ways that a library can use Foursquare for library marketing and even instruction!

One of the major draws of Foursquare for its users is that it has game components.  Not only are you letting your friends know where you are, but you are also competing against them for the most places visited.  Additionally, Foursquare has integrated a “mayorship”  aspect where the person who checks in at a particular location the most becomes mayor.  As a Foursquare user myself, I’m surprised as to what lengths I’ll go to just to become mayor of my favorite places.  Libraries can further this competition by giving an incentive to patrons who become mayor.  Incentives can range from prizes such as library t-shirts or mugs even to library fine reversal!  Libraries without money for prizes could give the prize of fame by posting the mayor’s name prominently in the library.

Cook Library Foursquare Tip

Foursquare can even be used as an instructional tool.  Tips can be added to locations so that when a person checks in at your library or at an establishment near your library, a tip will pop up on the screen.  Multiple tips can be added by you and your patrons, however only one tip per check in will be displayed.  As these tips are displayed, they can be saved by the user and checked off as they are accomplished.  This system could most certainly be used in a library or university orientation session.

In addition to points, mayorships, and tips, Foursquare also has another gaming component- badges.  Badges are available for completing any number of different check-ins.  Get the “Gym Rat” badge for checking in at a gym facility ten or more times in a month, or get the “School Night” badge for checking in after 3am on a school night!  How could these badges be used at a library or university setting?  Companies, organizations, and even universities are working with Foursquare to develop badges related to events or in the case of Harvard University places around campus.  Harvard’s badge is used for new student orientation.  While getting a badge developed for an individual library maybe a difficult task, working with other libraries or even the university at large may help development.  That badge  could be used in turn for a variety of marketing, instructional, and even recruitment purposes.

What about privacy!?!?  While Foursquare does share a person’s location, it does so only when that person chooses to share.  A user can even check in without sharing his or her location with anyone, therefore accumulating points, badges, or mayorships without divulging location information.  Another thing to keep in mind is that your library location is most likely on Foursquare whether you put it there or not, so why not capitalize on something that your patrons are already using?  While I’m not sure I’d recommend that libraries or universities require students to play Foursquare for any assignment, Foursquare is a great way to market services to students already using the social networking tool.

Advertisements

Information Discovery Via the Library Catalog

facets5One of the great functions of a library is to provide space for information discovery. However, as information searching transitioned from a paper-based endeavor into a predominantly electronic activity. the likelihood of unexpectedly discovering resources took a severe downturn. For instance, the library OPAC has simplified the search process, but in so doing the time spent browsing the stacks has been significantly reduced. This reduction limits the likelihood of unexpected discovery. Thankfully the recent trend in online catalogs towards faceted search interfaces has begun to address this problem.

Faceted searching provides users more opportunity for virtually browsing the collection. Search results are accompanied with links for faceted navigation, presenting users with a variety of facets (format, date, author, subject, location, etc.) by which they can refine their search results. Encore is one of several faceted search interfaces currently on the market. However, unlike its competitors (at least those that I am aware of), it offers two added features that I just love – social tagging and tag clouds!

encore1

With Encore, once a patron has signed into their account, they are allowed to create and link tags with item records. Fields from bibliographic entries can also be imported as tags. Patron and library created tags are treated equally and displayed as one, thus encouraging a hitherto nonexistent collaborative relationship between library staff and users. However, Catalogers have no need to fear – these tags appear together, but they are stored separately. Therefore, Encore allows libraries to take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies, while preserving catalog records within their bibliographic databases.

tagcloud2One way in which this technology could be used in an academic library would be to use tags to direct students to materials relevant to particular courses. By creating a course tag such as ART100 students, faculty, and library staff can tag resources relating to themes covered in the class. The resulting tag clouds provide users with a second option for virtual browsing. One that is increasingly familiar to the student clientele of academic libraries. By offering tools such as Encore, libraries can reestablish themselves as spaces (both virtual and physical) for information discovery.

A product of Innovative Interfaces, the creators of Millennium, Encore is compatible with a number of its ILS competitors, such as Voyager and ALEPH 500.